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Heir Denies He Tried to Steal Victim's Identity

October 29, 2003|Lianne Hart | Times Staff Writer

GALVESTON, Texas — Prosecutors in the murder trial of real estate heir Robert Durst on Tuesday offered a motive for the killing: They theorized that he had sought to steal Morris Black's identity.

"You became Morris Black," prosecutor Joel Bennett said to Durst. "You impersonated Morris Black, didn't you?"

Durst denied the allegation, although he admitted that he had taken Black's driver's license and Medicare card after the 71-year-old man -- a loner with no family in the area -- was killed in Durst's apartment.

Durst maintains that Black was a friend who was accidentally shot in the face as the two men struggled over a .22-caliber pistol in September 2001. He said he didn't report the shooting because he feared police would not believe him, given his recent history; Durst is a wealthy man who had rented a cheap apartment in Galveston while posing as a mute woman. Panicked and in a marijuana- and whiskey-induced haze, Durst has testified, he dismembered Black and threw his remains into the Gulf of Mexico.

"If I had gone to the police, nothing I did would have happened. I wouldn't have dismembered him, I wouldn't have run away," said Durst, 60.

Galveston County prosecutors prodded Durst during his fourth day of testimony for details of the dismemberment, but he said he did not remember the specifics. "It was like waking up from a dream or nightmare with blood everywhere," Durst said. "I remember I was swimming in blood, and I kept spitting up and spitting up and I don't remember what is real and what is not real."

"You came into this courtroom with a story to tell us, did you not? Your version of the facts?" Galveston County Dist. Atty. Kurt Sistrunk asked Durst.

"I came in prepared to tell you what happened," Durst replied. "

Durst is the son of the late real estate mogul Seymour Durst, whose company owns many Manhattan skyscrapers and helped redevelop Times Square. Robert Durst's first wife disappeared more than 20 years ago. California authorities want to talk to him about his friend, Susan Berman, who was killed in December 2000 before she was to be questioned about Durst's missing wife.

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